Antiques Roadshow

Nicole and Ken Rice are always on the hunt for unique antiques to incorporate in their home.

Photography Daniel Wood

As a child, Nicole Rice knew her parents were so worried about protecting the fancy furniture in their living room that she wasn’t even allowed in it. “We never wanted that for our house,” Nicole says of the custom infill home that she and her husband, Ken, built in Grovenor in 2012. “I wanted something that people could feel comfortable in, where nothing is too precious, because it’s already beat up.” Even though the house is jam-packed with rare vintage pieces – many picked up at antique auctions in the United States – the couple is adamant that their house should be lived in and, above all, enjoyed. “The kids can go wherever they want, and they know that.”

Children are the reason that the Rices first bought the lot next door to their original home on the street. They knew they’d one day need the extra space, even if timing kept them from building right away. “We bought at the height of the boom,” Nicole says. “Literally the market crashed the next day. We spent a fortune on the lot and then couldn’t afford to build on it.” Today, the Rices and their three children -Amy, 9; Kate, 7; and Henry, 6 – are nicely settled in, with separate bedrooms together on the top floor, just as they first envisioned.

Nicole, an interior designer who owns the downtown clothing boutique Sweet {Jolie}, and Ken, the owner of an automotive customizing shop in the West End, are both avid antique shoppers who love all things vintage and industrial. (Nicole also has a bit of a French flair.) In fact, most of the pieces in their home were snagged together. “We go to the States once or twice per year,” Nicole says. “We go to one big event every year in Spokane, Washington. If we have a sitter, more often than not we’ll go antiquing.”

That passion is obvious from the second you set foot inside the Rices’ home. Their living room, far from being covered in plastic, has eye-catching pieces in every corner, from the side table made from salvaged Idaho dock wood to the vintage airplane propeller the couple found at an auction in the nearby town of Millet. They were sure the piece, which looks straight out of a Restoration Hardware catalogue, would fetch at least $1,500, but they ended up landing it for just $200. Ken says it cost him more than that just to mount it to the wall.

One of Nicole’s favourite features to play around with is lighting. The dangling light over their entranceway, for instance, is an industrial piece from an old train station in Spokane, which even came with its original oversized light bulb. Above their dining-room table, meanwhile, hangs a repurposed copper tympani drum that’s been flipped upside down and had its skin removed. “Almost every light in this house has been swapped out since we moved in,” she says.

The couple also has a soft spot for the animal world. A towering metal-and-wire cabinet, thought to be an industrial chicken coop, enjoys a prominent spot in their kitchen, and there are other feathered flourishes throughout the main floor. But their true loves are the larger species. A swirling black-and-white painting of a bear, from the Canmore-based artist, Libby, dominates the staircase landing, and Ken recently took a full-sized taxidermy mould of a reindeer and stretched a Hudson’s Bay blanket around the head and neck. That Canadiana theme continues into the master bedroom, which includes the door of an old metal Canada Post mailbox affixed to the wall. On top of a set of vintage lockers sits a limited-edition, Hudson’s Bay-themed Barbie doll – still in its original packaging, of course.

The children’s rooms also contain the occasional antique piece, like the apple-sorting table that doubles as Amy’s desk, but they’re still too young to appreciate the finer points of a given item. Nicole remembers the day she brought home a vintage yellow headboard for Kate, only to hear that her daughter would rather have a bunk bed instead. “There’s a balance between what I think is amazing, and ‘How come they don’t appreciate it?'” Nicole says. “They don’t really get it, yet.”

The couple’s goal is to fill their family’s living space with vintage finds from around the world. “I’m a maximalist,” Nicole says. “I like a lot of things that I love around me all the time.” And what happens when they finally run out of space? Well, that’s one of the perks of owning your own retail space. Nicole has been steadily funnelling pieces that don’t fit in her home out to decorate Sweet {Jolie} – including an old gas pump and a massive, 1,200-lb bank vault. But she and Ken aren’t slowing down yet. They’re planning their next trip to the States as we speak.

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